Five things that B2B marketers need to be thinking about in 2015

top.5What should B2B marketers be thinking about in 2015? here’s my Top Five.

1. Hire marketing technologists now!

Marketing automation gathered serious pace in 2014. Indeed technology continues to play an increasingly important part in our day-to-day lives; so much so that Gartner predicts CMOs will soon be the single largest budget holders for IT by 2017.

However, the technology itself represents only one piece of the puzzle. As the demand for marketing automation grows so too will the demand for an entirely new set of skills. The availability of quality marketing technologists remains limited and this skills-crunch will really start to expose itself in 2015.

Over time, the necessary skills will become second nature to anyone entering the profession (remember the days when we had to employ webmasters to write / launch a webpage?!). However for the next couple of years marketers with a deep understanding of marketing technology, and how to leverage these technologies for maximum impact, will become highly sought after and key hires for many companies.

Budget for this headcount now.

2. Facebook loses its shine for B2B marketers

Three years ago it was [almost] forgivable to measure your social media success using metrics such as Facebook likes. But it’s 2015 people; we know better, right?

Let’s face it, we’ve spent time and effort exploring just about every social media platform in existence. Now, I’m not going to deny that there are some B2B outliers that see measurable results on platforms such as Facebook and Pintrest, but for the majority it’s time to focus attention on what really matters and what really drives engagement. Did you know that Forrester Research recently claimed that Facebook posts only reach around 2% of “fans” and less than 0.1% actually engage.

The death knell came in November 2014 when Facebook finally announced the end of organic social marketing. What does that mean? Well, essentially starting January 2015 users will be exposed to less and less promotional (organic) content through their news feeds. Your news feed already has controls for paid advertising, but promotional content from Liked pages hasn’t (until now) been monitored.  Facebook has acknowledged that posts designed to solely push people to buy a product or enter promotions is disruptive to the user experience, and it’s acted.

In 2015 it’s time to focus your social activity. Stop throwing content blindly at Facebook thinking you are having a relevant conversation with your audience. You probably aren’t and it’s unlikely to even work anymore.  Understand your audience and the platforms that drive true engagement among your target audience.

3. Don’t forget long form 

Those who have been in the marketing industry for more than ten years will remember that once upon a time, the majority of content produced was long form. Lengthy whitepapers, detailed case studies and coveted word by-lined articles. These were the norm. However, over the last few years, as the idea of “content marketing” began to explode, the art of long form content started to be lost. Gone were the in-depth pieces that conveyed deep domain expertise, making way for short, bite-sized content assets designed for lead generation.

However, while short, pithy blog posts, visually exciting, shareable infographics are all wonderful tools to drive traffic to web sites, grow attention and capture a lead, they are something of a blunt implement when looking to convert those leads later down the funnel. It’s at this point in the cycle, as leads start to evaluate prospective vendors, that the need to demonstrate credibility and domain expertise becomes paramount. The in-depth case study displays credibility, the detailed white-paper a sense of thought-leadership; quality long form content inspires the confidence that prospects are looking for before they commit to more meaningful vendor conversations.

2015 is the year for long form to make its comeback; factor it into your content plans now!

4. Build a team fit for the 21st Century

Despite the rapid changes in our industry, the structure of many marketing teams hasn’t changed in decades. Functional silos, with duplicate teams sat across multiple business lines and brands are difficult to manage coherently. We’ve matured many of our functional competencies, but now we need better orchestration between them.

Think about how the team maps to the buying cycle; how is product marketing feeding your content machine, how is that content machine connected to SEO, and how are SEO metrics (and other data points) being feed back into product marketing?

Every stage in the buying cycle and every marketing discipline is now a data point; but data points need analysis to drive insight. Consider how a segment / category manager can be empowered to coordinate marketing efforts based on this data across multiple marketing channels and along the entire buyer journey. For these orchestrators, functional expertise is largely irrelevant. Instead it’s about building the skills and processes to connect the marketer’s growing toolkit.

5. Don’t forget the craft of copywriting

There’s a lot of noise out there and making sure you’re being heard is becoming increasingly challenging. That’s why, in 2015, it’s time to ditch your bland content and look to create content that provokes a response beyond the “share” button.

Of course the sheer volume of content that the average brand now produces can’t all be serviced by professional copywriters. Likewise the immediacy of many digital channels requires very different skills. Don’t think that hiring an ex-journalist will be the answer to everything; authoring a headline for social in a way that drives traffic, or is optimised for search, is not an innate skill for many journalists or traditional copywriters. So, use your resources wisely and acknowledge that a Tweet, a blog post, a print advertisment, a long form paper etc. are very different animals. Sure, editorial savvy is a prerequisite regardless of the content but your Tweets can probably be serviced by your web team. Should you be saying the same about your high-value long-form content?

Think carefully about  the robotic nature that pervades much of today’s content. Is that how you want your brand represented? Unfortunately, the craft of copywriting has become something of a dying art form. Let’s bring it back.

 

Do you have other key issues that B2B marketers should be considering in 2015? Use the comments to let me know.

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